Pregnancy is a roller coaster of emotions and preparation for baby’s arrival. And then baby is here—and many of those things we thought we’d prepared for are much harder than they sounded. Successful breastfeeding may be one of those things.
When Sunshine was born, I was surprised at how hard it was to get started breastfeeding. Many of my friends have shared similar concerns and struggles with breastfeeding. Recently, I had the chance to ask Lansinoh lactation consultant Gina Cicatelli Ciagne about some tips and advice for successful breastfeeding. Here are her answers.
TKM: What advice would you give a first-time mom planning to breastfeed?
Gina: There is so much advice out there for pregnant women who are planning to breastfeed and it can be very overwhelming! Start by taking a deep breath and remembering that countless women before you have done this throughout the entire history of time.
Your body is incredible and knows just what to do. And that little baby will be born knowing that he or she is supposed to breastfeed. While it may take a few days to figure it all out, you can figure it all out.
Joining the Lansinoh Moms’ Club will give you access to bite-size pieces of information throughout your pregnancy and after baby arrives, making the information less overwhelming. Knowing what to expect is really helpful so you know what is normal (for instance, baby nursing a lot around the clock is normal!) and what may be a red flag.
TKM: How can you prevent or treat engorgement in the first weeks of breastfeeding?
Gina: I’ve found that it helps when moms understand what engorgement is. When baby is first born, your body first produces colostrum. After a few days, it will be replaced by mature milk. This can come in quickly and can be more than baby needs to eat at first because your body is unsure how much baby needs just yet. This causes your breasts to swell, which is the common condition called engorgement. It is temporary!
Your body will soon adjust to baby’s nursing needs and your supply will even out. Nursing frequently is the best way to alleviate engorgement, but this can be difficult if your breast is so swollen that baby is unable to properly latch onto your nipple. (This is a great time to use Lansinoh’s LatchAssist Nipple Everter, which temporarily draws out your nipple so baby can latch on.)
Other things to try:
- Take a hot shower to help soften breasts.
- Express some milk using hand expression or a breast pump, for a very short amount of time, getting out just enough milk to soften the breast so baby can properly latch on.
- Use ice packs after nursing to reduce swelling and relieve pain. When frozen and used cold, Lansinoh® THERA°PEARL® 3-in-1 Breast Therapy packs can help ease the pain and soreness that can accompany engorgement.
TKM: What can moms do to help get their supply of milk going when starting breastfeeding?
Gina: It is difficult for new moms not to compare their experiences to those of their friends and family, but it’s important to remember that every baby—and every breastfeeding experience—is unique. Some moms may struggle because their baby is a tongue-tied, while their friends have babies who clusterfeed—which is a completely different challenge!
Breastfeed often. Nothing stimulates your milk supply more than feeding baby at the breast. Drink plenty of water. See a lactation consultant in the early days of breastfeeding so you can make sure there isn’t a problem with baby’s latch or suck. There is nothing wrong with asking a lactation consultant for assistance, and identifying problems early on can be critical for breastfeeding success.
TKM: What are common misconceptions about successful breastfeeding?
Gina: This is one of my favorite articles on the website because it busts some of the most common breastfeeding myths. But the most common one is that if a baby is breastfeeding every hour, it’s a sign of poor milk supply. Your body produces less milk when you use supplements and skip feedings. Feed on demand, and your body will build up its supply. (Come back next week for more tips from Gina on dealing with low supply and other breastfeeding issues!)
TKM: What are common mistakes that new moms make when it comes to breastfeeding?
Gina: As I mentioned before, it is difficult for new moms not to compare their experiences to those of their friends and family, but it’s important to remember that every baby—and every breastfeeding experience—is unique. Turn to professionals for coaching if you think there are problems—there is no shame in asking for help!
TKM: What strategies should be adopted when breastfeeding multiples that differ from breastfeeding a single baby?
Gina: The thought of nursing more than one baby at a time seems daunting but many moms have done it, and many say that once they got the hang of it, it wasn’t much different than nursing one baby.
The breastfeeding rule of supply and demand applies whether you’re nursing one baby or four. The more your breasts are stimulated, the more milk you’ll produce. If for some reason only one of your babies is feeding at the breast at first, double pump after they finish so your body will get used to producing more than one baby requires. You may not see a major output of milk at first but you are still stimulating which triggers production.
It is possible to nurse both babies at the same time. Hold both babies in front of you, their chest against your chest, with their legs crossed in your lap so they are in a more upright position and facing each breast. Or try the clutch hold, with one baby on either side of your body, supported by pillows. In either case, switch the babies from one breast to the other halfway through their feeding. You’ll probably have one side that produces more than the other and this will ensure both babies are getting enough. But don’t time your feedings as they should be able to nurse as long as desired to ensure that they are getting enough nourishment and so your supply is being maintained.
You will likely have family members or friends who want to help but sometimes this help can be to the detriment of your breastfeeding. On those days that you’re overwhelmed, family members might think that the best solution is to supplement with formula so you can get some rest. It is important for them to know your desire to nurse and how beneficial breastmilk is to your babies.
TKM: When mothers want to build up a supply of pumped milk in their freezer, how early should they start pumping (is it possible to start too early)? What is the best strategy for managing this?
Gina: Having a breastmilk supply stash in your freezer can be of great comfort to women who need to be apart from their baby periodically, whether they’re returning to work or going out with friends. When baby is first born, the most important thing is to make sure they’re feeding on demand and that your body is building up its supply. If possible, exclusively breastfeed for the first 4-6 weeks.
When you’re breastfeeding every 1-2 hours, it can be difficult to find time to pump as well. If you need to have a breastmilk supply earlier than that, consider pumping from one breast while you’re nursing from the other. This is a very efficient way to begin building up your breastmilk supply.
Thanks, Gina, for this information on successful breastfeeding!
Come back for part two of my interview with Gina, with more details on how to face some of the problems encountered with breastfeeding. I’d also like to thank my friends who asked questions for this interview. If you have questions or advice, please feel free to leave a comment below!
What advice would you share about successful breastfeeding for a new mom? Did you find nursing easy or hard?